When it comes to whether Ohio should reopen businesses or keep them closed amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there’s no doubt where state Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) stands.
“We should have guidelines for businesses to open up so that they can open up to their customers so they can pay their employees,” Brenner says.
Brenner says businesses should continue using social distancing, face masks and hand sanitizer, but he’s joining a growing chorus of Ohio conservatives calling on Gov. Mike DeWine and Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton to loosen restrictions and jump-start a stalled economy.
Brenner’s comments came on Tuesday, a day after protesters returned to the Ohio Statehouse to denounce the state's stay-at-home order, which extends until May 1. Many held signs with slogans such as “The cure is worse than the virus” and “We need a reasonable and sustainable response.”
A few more pics pic.twitter.com/iVh94sCHkx
— Karen Kasler (@karenkasler) April 13, 2020
Brenner says with more than 700,000 Ohioans losing their jobs because of recent economic restrictions, now is the time to reopen. Health officials say doing so could lead to the COVID-19 case surge that they've so far successfully avoided.
Inside the Statehouse, Brenner is getting company from more lawmakers. State Rep. Todd Smith (R-Germantown) recently wrote DeWine a letter saying, “We now have actual data that has shown the effect of the virus to be much less than anticipated.” It also urges DeWine to be “out in front leading for the re-opening of businesses and the rescinding of restrictions that have been placed on the citizens of Ohio.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, the health department confirmed 7,153 cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, although officials say the actual number of cases here is certainly much higher because of limited testing. The state also links 324 deaths to the resipratory illness.
In his daily press briefings, DeWine has been steadfast in saying continued restrictions are the right thing to do. But on Tuesday, DeWine said that when businesses do reopen, “it’s going to be different” until a coronavirus vaccine is readily available.
“This is to every business out there that is chomping at the bit to reopen, it’s to every university, every college, every superintendent. You need to be thinking, ‘How am I going to open,'” DeWine said. “‘What am I going to do every single day to keep my employees safe, my customers safe, my students safe, my faculty safe, my teachers safe.’"
Brenner said that behind closed doors, DeWine has been open to ideas from lawmakers.
“A week ago Sunday, he had a conference call with our caucus and was very open to our ideas and very open to listening to the concerns that we are getting from our own constituents," Brenner said. "He’s taking that into consideration.”
House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) recently formed a task force to study how to spur economic development during and after the pandemic. The group has met twice virtually and has yet to issue any recommendations.
The state’s stay at home order ordering non-essential businesses to close expires in three weeks, but DeWine has said Acton could issue another, as she’s already done.